Debate Topics

PURPOSE: To start you thinking about possible topics for your debate.
NOTE: This assignment DOES NOT need to be typed, although that is preferred.
1. This is a simple brainstorming activity. You will be researching and
constructing a case (both affirmative and negative) on a current event case,
policy oriented. It needs to have some areas of controversy, but I don’t want
the debates to be based upon moral issues (e.g., abortion).
You will be “stuck” with your debate topic for the entire semester; thus, it is
important to spend some time thinking about it now.
2. Step 1: Initial Brainstorming: Brainstorm at least ten (10) different possible
policy debate topics. We should be going through what makes a debatable
topic, so review those notes.
Write all ten of them down on a piece of paper. (You can definitely start with
more than 10…)
3. Step 2: Narrowing List: Now the goal is to weed the list down to three (3)
Review your topics with the following criteria:
Too Well-Known / Overdone (WK): There are many topics that have been discussed to
death. If you can think of three arguments against and three arguments for the issue off
the top of your head, then the topic is not new, or “fresh” enough. Ideally, you will learn
about a new issue and expand your knowledge base.
Boring to You (B): Perhaps you listed a topic that you have no interest in researching.
Generally, students will get more out of researching a topic in which they are interested.
Difficult to Research (DR): There are some topics that sound good but, when you think
about them in more detail, you realize that they would be extremely difficult to find
information about. For example, one semester students had difficulty finding research
about whether to divide California into two states. There was scarce available research,
so we ended up changing the topic.
Not Socially Significant (NS): There are topics that are not really important to the larger
society. For example, debating whether a stop sign should be erected in the college
parking lot doesn’t really affect society in general.
Too Broad or Too Narrow (TB/TN): Some topics are so broad that there is no way you
can cover them in the time allotted for a debate (not to mention researching them), such
as U.S. foreign policy to all countries. Others are too narrow (The attendance policy in my
Lightly cross out the topics that you’ve brainstormed that could be eliminated
based upon the above criteria.
4. Step 3: Final Choices: Put an asterisk next to the three topics that you think
would make decent topics for debates.
Remember: There is no guarantee that you will end up debating on one of
these three topics. The class (or I) may not agree with you on the appeal of
these topics, or other more interesting/debatable topics might be submitted
by other students. Also, at least six people will have to select the same topic,
so if you can’t find others who would want to debate the issue, it will be